The groups said there is a need to ensure income subsidy through CAMP on a monthly basis for the duration of the quarantine imposed by the government to contain the coronavirus disease 2019.
Ted Aljibe/AFP/File
Business, labor groups want more aid for workers
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Business and labor groups yesterday urged the government to increase the allocation as well as address issues in the implementation of the subsidy program for workers affected by the enhanced community quarantine.

In a joint statement, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Federation of Free Workers and Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa asked the government to increase the allocation for the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The groups said there is a need to ensure income subsidy through CAMP on a monthly basis for the duration of the quarantine imposed by the government to contain the coronavirus disease 2019.

“Any such income subsidy should be equivalent to the prevailing minimum wage,” they said.

CAMP provides a one-time assistance of P5,000 for workers.

Among the issues identified by the groups in the program’s implementation is the notification process.

They said the rank-and-file workers’ only form of communication is through text messaging as many do not have access to the internet and cannot use e-mail.

The groups said there are also issues on the requirement such as payroll and pay slips as these are confidential and offices are currently closed.

To ensure that workers receive the assistance on time to enable them to weather the economic contraction resulting from the enhanced community quarantine, the groups recommended that the DOLE should notify the employees and/or employers through e-mail and/or text message within three days after submission of requirement.

The email or text message should contain the status of a company’s application under the CAMP as well as the expected date of the release of benefits.

For transparency, the groups recommended that a report containing the budget allocated for CAMP, disbursements, number of approved and declined applications as well as reasons for such be provided by DOLE.

To simplify the process of application, they said only one document – establishment form, pay slip, logbook, Social Security System alpha list, Human Resources-certified list of employees and certified payroll – should be submitted in lieu of two documents required under DOLE’s guidelines.

The groups said the DOLE should also allow workers to submit the requirement directly through an online portal especially created for CAMP applications.

To make it easier for workers to receive the financial assistance, the groups said the subsidy could be given through banks, savings or payroll accounts of the workers, employers in the form of checks payable to individual employees and money-remittance services or mobile wallets.

The recommendations were made during the Leaders Forum, a social dialogue mechanism between leaders representing management and labor.

Tax credits for middle class

Lawmakers have proposed to give tax credits to middle-income families as financial assistance due to the extended enhanced community quarantine.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Niña Taduran agreed with President Duterte that those in the middle of the socio-economic structure should also be given assistance and not just the poor.

Taduran urged the government to give tax credits equivalent to the P5,000 to P8,000 cash subsidies given to poor households.

“A lot of middle income families have also been badly hit by the slowdown in the economy and the work stoppage. They could be small businessmen or employed, but their companies couldn’t sustain their operations,” Taduran said.

She expressed belief that such measure would help boost the economy without the need for budgetary requirement.

Taduran said that while the proposed tax credit may initially result in loss of income for the government, the added purchasing power of the middle class will help stimulate the economy through the purchases they make.

“Having to pay P5,000 to P8,000 less in taxes means P5,000 to P8,000 more that they can use for their personal needs. This will also not require additional budgetary expense on the part of the government,” she said.

Salceda, chair of the House ways and means committee, agreed to extend assistance to middle-class families, but offered another alternative.

He proposed a program similar to what the US government has implemented, which involved the distribution of P1,000 to P2,000 for every citizen except those in the upper 10 percent of the socio-economic classes, using the Universal Basic Income (UBI) approach.

“This UBI approach will have a bigger reach and will include the middle class,” he said.

Salceda cited the contribution of middle-income earners to the country’s tax intake.

He said that households in the seventh, eighth and ninth deciles contributed some P44.4 billion in taxes, P29.4 billion of which were personal income taxes.

Salceda said his proposal would be cheaper but more comprehensive than the P200-billion social amelioration program that only covers 18 million families.

He said P198 billion would be needed to cover 90 percent of the country’s population, and P176 billion for 80 percent.

“Essentially, the advantage of UBI approach is that it is human-centered. If there are many members of a household, the current P5,000 subsidy will not suffice. Under the BUI model, food intake is per person,” he said. – With Alexis Romero, Edu Punay, Paolo Romero 

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